Routine exercise may drastically slash your chances of getting depression – even if you are genetically at risk.
Scientists found adults who took part in four hours of exercise each week were 17 per cent less likely to develop the mental health condition.
Harvard University researchers discovered that even as little as 30 minutes a day of physical activity like yoga and dance classes or working up a sweat at the gym may have positive effects.
Dr Karmel Choi and colleagues harvested data from nearly 8,000 participants in the Partners Healthcare Biobank.
The Biobank is a long-term research program designed to help scientists understand how genes affect health outcomes.
On enrolling at the Biobank, the participants answered a survey about their lifestyle habits, including their level of exercise.
Over two years, researchers cross-referenced this information with patient health records and spotted those diagnosed with depression.
The authors also used participants’ genetic information to calculate a single score that reflects a person’s inherited risk for depression.
Results published in the Depression and Anxiety journal, showed people with a higher genetic risk were 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
However, if people in this group exercised they were 17 percent less likely to get depression than adults who were at low genetic risk but didn’t exercise.
Those with the highest genetic risk score were 12 per cent less likely to to develop depression if they exercised, and those with the lower scores were 38 per cent less likely.
Of the exercises, running and walking were both found to reduce one’s chances of depression, by 13 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
But bizarrely, jogging, swimming and racquet sports showed no beneficial effect.
High-intensity exercise such as dancing reduced the depression risk by 16 per cent, and low intensity exercise by 14 per cent.
The NHS recommends regular exercise for for people with mild to moderate depression, with GPs often prescribing physical activity as a treatment.
Three hour-long sessions every week for between 10 to 14 weeks is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for depression sufferers.
Everyone is advised to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week to stay fit.
Dr Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said that for some of the planet’s 100million depression sufferers, exercise ‘works as well as antidepressants’.
In the short term, exercising releases feel-good endorphin chemicals, and in the long term, persistent activity incurs the proteins which improve brain function and mood.